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'BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN': Cancellation was Miller's call, and his loss

Published January 10, 2006 12:01 am

A sad story
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Admittedly, "Brokeback Mountain" is a movie that is not for everyone.

But one might think that every multiplex owner would be eager to screen a film that is both a critical triumph and a controversial generator of free publicity.

Free publicity the film is getting. But even though one Utah theater owner - Larry H. Miller - has added to that attention, he won't be reaping any of the benefit. Nor, thanks to some shallow reporting that is showing up literally around the world, will Utah.

In a last-minute decision, apparently based on a last-minute realization of what "Brokeback Mountain" is sort of about, Miller Friday canceled the movie's run at his MegaPlex 17 in Sandy.

That's his call. And his loss. But not Salt Lake City's, as the movie continues to run at the downtown Broadway Centre Cinemas, as well as one house each in the Century and Cinemark chains.

Sadly, brief articles that have appeared everywhere from The New York Times to the New China News Agency may leave the impression that the film has been banned from Utah altogether. That's another rap this state doesn't deserve.

Miller and company aren't talking, but word is that the auto dealer/NBA owner/theater impresario only found out that the film involves 20 years in the lives of two "gay cowboys" when a local radio reporter called to ask him about the controversy surrounding the movie.

We can only guess that Miller had not actually seen the film at that point. If he had, he might realize that to dismiss "Brokeback Mountain" as a gay movie would be like passing on Moby Dick as a fish story.

The film, an art-house feature that went into wider release last week, is less about sexuality, gay or otherwise, than it is about human loneliness. And, as realized first in the short story by Annie Proulx and then in the film by director Ang Lee, being a gay man in the middle of Wyoming may be about the loneliest condition on Earth.

The movie is about as frank as a mainstream movie is likely to get, certainly outside the comfort range of many good people. But it in no way glamorizes the "gay

lifestyle," just as it refuses to sugarcoat the dark side of other human relationships.

The proper response to Larry Miller's performance in this drama is the same as the humane response to seeing Heath Ledger's portrayal in "Brokeback Mountain." Not anger. Not put-downs. Just sadness.